IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshops) is an annual 3 day conference, attended by the UK’s higher educational web management community.
Myself and our UX developer, Jonathan, attended this year’s event, hosted by Liverpool John Moores University. The theme was “Understanding Users: Managing Change; Delivering Services” which is a key area for Higher Education in general; but also important for us here at Kent as we look to improve the student experience and our online presence.
Day 1 – Understand Users
Kicking off day 1 of the event was a plenary talk, entitled ‘Requirements Are Hypotheses: How Lean UX Can Help You Develop Better Products‘ delivered by Neil Allison from the University of Edinburgh. He brought to the table the Lean UX hypothesis statement “features on their own are not a measure of success.” He gave a good case study on how his institution have used this approach to test out a hypotheses that users wanted ‘advanced search’ – quickly adding this functionality and monitoring the click rate over time. By testing hypotheses of what the users want, we can prevent dedicating development time to something of limited value and focus our efforts elsewhere. This is definitely something that we’d like to experiment a bit more with in our team.
There were a number of smaller workshop sessions in the afternoon – I went along to ‘A3: Leadership 101‘ led by Claire Gibbons from the University of Bradford. This was a really valuable session, which although quite theoretical, was very engaging and helped me to identify both the types of problems we see most often, as well as the style of leadership I tend to use. This session helped me to remember that each of my colleagues are different, and may need different leadership styles at different times and I need to be able to adapt to help them to achieve their best.
Day 2 – Managing Change; Delivering Services; Analytics
This was the main day of the conference and spanned several topics. Naturally, one of these was agile – the main plenary talk on this was ‘Building a New University Website – an Agile Content Case Study‘ – delivered by Richard Prowse from the University of Bath. They used their own flavour of agile and applied it to digital content – from planning through to governance. The key takeaway here is that agile principles can extend beyond the realm of development; it’s more of a mindset than a methodology.
In the afternoon, I attended a masterclass delivered by Rob Ryder-Richardson from the University of Dundee, entitled ‘Corporate Use of Social Media.’ Although the social media side of the University of Kent is delivered by the Corporate Communications team who don’t sit within Information Services, it’s useful to have an insight into this area, and I learned a lot about tools I’d never even heard of before!
Rob undertook the brave ‘live demo’ where he showed off various tools including:
- Facebook Business Manager – used to manage organisation pages; advert campaigns; apps and the people who work on these – for Facebook and Instagram.
- Buffer – content publishing platform for scheduling and publishing to social networks. Similar to HootSuite which our Corporate Communications team use, although that’s more of a management platform which allows delegation of tasks to other users.
- Unbounce – a landing page builder for advertising campaigns (it’s mobile responsive too).
The masterclass serves as a discussion point as it made me aware of how little I know about what our institution is doing in terms of social media campaigns. It highlighted an area for improvement – I believe that our team needs to have a joined up approach with Corporate Communications when it comes to social media and the University’s website.
Day 3 – Beyond the Institution
The last day of the conference focussed on external partnerships and influences that affect the way in which Higher Education Institutes operate.
A key aspect discussed on the third day was regarding how the sector is changing. In his talk, ‘It’s time to Get Personal‘, Piero Tintori from TerminalFour spoke about how Higher Education can learn from Retail in terms of targeting services towards the consumers we want to have. There were some differing opinions but the consensus seems to be that students are now seen as consumers: who with higher fees, also have higher expectations and are more likely to voice complaints.
As we expected, there was a strong focus on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) legislation and how institutions are changing the way in which they operate to meet this. Marieke Guy from The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) gave a plenary talk to provide an overview into what this means for Higher Education, especially when it comes to marketing courses. Awareness of various legislation is incredibly important for web development; one product which we look after is the Online Prospectus – we need to be able to support the business and show key information as required by the CMA.
For me, the key takeaways from this event are that the landscape of the sector is evolving. Students have higher expectations and we need to be able to satisfy these. Data driven decisions are important – asking users what they need in terms of the web will give different answers to what they actually ‘do.’
Several sessions from this conference have given me food for thought and highlighted areas that our department needs to find out more about, especially in terms of what we are doing with social media, and how this can assist with the institutional strategy. It has also echoed areas that we are doing well; especially when it comes to agile and Lean UX principles. I’m really proud of what we are achieving in this area, and strive to assist our team to continue to challenge our processes and to become more efficient in our delivery of services to the wider organisation.
IWMW 16 Sketchnote by Kevin Mears CC BY 4.0
Next year, the University of Kent have the privilege of hosting the 21st IWMW event. We’re very excited about this, and will be working out the finer details with the organisers over the next year. The provisional dates are 11th-13th July 2017, and we really look forward to welcoming our colleagues and friends from across the sector to our patch here in Canterbury.